The Common Good
March 2005

Catholic Sisters Implement Living Wage

by Rose Marie Berger, Mark Betz | March 2005

The Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids,

The Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan, decided to back up their advocacy with action on the issue of a livable family income. The sisters sought to match what they pay their own employees with the wage-and-benefit structure for which they advocate nationally. "We established guidelines to measure the minimum amount needed to provide a ‘living wage’ for a family and to realign our financial priorities so that we could pay that amount," Sister Maureen Geary, OP, told Sojourners. "Our congregation’s plan is now fully implemented, and we are in the fifth year of this program."

The Dominicans’ recent calculations resulted in a living wage for their region of $11.50 an hour, plus health care benefits. "An interesting learning for us has been that the $11.50 level has not changed for two years," said Geary, "since the federal government has reduced tax rates slightly even for low-income families and has increased the Earned Income Tax Credit and child-care credit for some circumstances. Matching wage increases by employers with more family-friendly tax policies can together improve the income level of many working families."

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